Monday, August 29, 2011
What was the teaser about yesterday? Well, my Kenmore 16221 can't do alphabets- but my Bernina Aurora 430 can! I got a new sewing machine!!!!! (Or "sewing computer" as the manual says)
On Saturday Kevin and I drove up to Cedar Rapids and spent some time at the Janome and Bernina dealers, asking lots of questions and looking at a few different models. On Sunday I drove up and spent about an hour at each sewing on different fabrics, and then another hour at Bernina talking with the salespeople, waffling about an upgrade, and talking about prices/ packages. (Friday I also went to Brother, but I ruled them out before I test sewed.)
So after looking at the three dealers near here, I narrowed it down the the Janome Horizon 7700 and the Bernina 430. Honestly, I think I'd be pretty happy with either machine. I feel like on the internet you get lots of "my machine is best!" but very few people who have used lots of different brands and can really say best.
So why did I go with Nina here?
Although people say Bernina's are really expensive, I felt like it was a great value for the money. (Also- I don't want to sound "rude" talking about money, but it is really hard to find pricing information about sewing machines, so I will say that I paid $2099 pre-tax, with trade in for the Bernina. I think it was $2600 without trade in. The Janome was listed at $2999 and I was offered $200 for my trade in.)
Here are the major differences I noticed:
The Janome Horizon has a HUGE throat space. The quilt shown above barely even touched the inside of the machine when I was sewing on it (though not in the absolute center)- on my Kenmore, I was having to bunch it up already! This was something that really drew me to the machine. It also has an automatic thread cutter, which was really nice to use (but not a deal breaker), and MUCH better memory than the Bernina (something like 20 "spots" of memory where you can put in quilt labels and such. The Bernina has 60 spots of memory- each holds 1 letter, or stitch. It's just not comprable, Janome wins here.) It also came with many more feet (but who ever uses half of those?). The dealer was going to "throw in" a sewing table ($500 value, but you can get good ones like Gidget 2 for $250ish) a rolling travel bag, a cone stand, and for me the free motion bobbin case ($60 value).
The Bernina felt better sewing- it could really fly and the stitches were beautiful. It didn't even notice the seam as it jumped it for jeans. You can wind the bobbin while still sewing. The dealer offered stronger support. It had more throat space then I had, and the dealer (and the internet) said that king size quilts were definitely doable on it (and I don't make those...) It had all the features I wanted (the Janome had them too) - locking stitch, basic alphabets, needle down, good lighting, knee lift, lots of decorative stitches and buttonholes, good free motion quilting. The thing that sold me was the price- the Janome might have more features, but not $1000 more (for me)
And then this: Bernina's special offer: the embroidery unit. It's $800 if you add it when you buy the machine, almost twice that if you add on later. That was HUGE value for me, as embroidery was something I kind of wanted to look at (and while Janome offered a good amount of stuff, it wasn't quite the same level of stuff). Getting it free: big deal. The Janome doesn't have embroidery capability, you can't add onto it later. (Kevin did point out: something you can never add: space. But I actually think he prefered the Bernina, they really sold the mechanical features, the motor, the Swiss quality, that is what a guy looks for)
And last, at least in that dealership the Janome 7700 was as good as you get, absolute top of the line (not sure if that is true of the brand). For Bernina, the 430 seems to be mid range. There is room to move up, and they offer good trade up, even years down the road. I've always been told Bernina has "expensive feet" but I found most to be reasonable, and to be about the same as Janome anyway (though maybe you can use generics there?) I've seen mixed reviews on the Horizon but pretty much no negative on the 430 (well, except that while they really hype "Swiss Made" the label say "Made in Thailand" I had a heads up on that thanks to patternreview.com, but their website says assembled there with swiss parts. I'm thinking it is a non-issue, but salespeople should be more careful with their talking points. )
So after test sewing, I decided Bernina: all I had left to think about was: do I upgrade to the 440? It comes with the BSR (stitch regulator for free motion quilting, it senses how fast you move the fabric, and stitches exactly the same size each time), walking foot, 1/4" foot, an extra alphabet, a good number more decorative stitches, but was essentially the same machine. Once I heard the price, the answer was NO (can't recall what it was, maybe $3,400?).
But they offered me a deal to add the BSR to the 430: $2999- that put it in line with the Horizon (they say buying it on it's own later is like $1400). After playing with it for awhile, I decided my money would be better spent on a few feet for the Bernina (I got satin stitch, open toe darning, and whatever the #10 is...it was recommended) and fabric to practice on. The sales people were very helpful, and didn't pressure me, just pointed out the reason that this line is great is these things can always be added later (for a higher cost). Already, I am very happy with my decision. I came home and immediately started free motion quilting (as seen in picture) and I LOVE IT as is! My stitches already look pretty even, I'm not getting eyelash pulls on the back. With the BSR it was always beeping at me that I was moving the fabric too fast, with the machine- I can set the needle speed, then play with the pressure on the foot pedal, and go as fast as I want. I finished a portion of the quilt that would have taken me 3 hours on my Kenmore in about an hour. This baby flies!
The embroidery unit wasn't in stock, so I get to pick that up later. I'm nervous about it- I really don't know anything about embroidery. It does not come with digitization software, and apparently that is expensive- but I can use pre-made designs.
I'll post a more thorough review later when I've had it for more than a day, but I think I'm going to be very happy with Nina! (And that's pronounced in the spanish way. Kevin said to me "Bernina is a swiss company, not spanish- stop saying it like it is one of Columbus's ships." That made me decide my actual machine was likely Spanish.)